Thursday, December 27, 2012

New Year's Resolutions for your Business

As the new year approaches it's the perfect time to take a look at what is working, what isn't, and how you can improve. Many people are planning to launch into weight-loss goals, more quality family time, or stress-reduction resolutions. Why not make a resolution to improve the health of your business? For many healthcare businesses there can be cost savings and untapped profit potential. Here are 3 areas to examine to make this new year your best yet!

Product and Service Lines
The first step is to take a hard look at the products and services your business is offering. Is your offering keeping up the needs of the community you’re servicing? Possibly there are products or services you could delete that would allow room for more profitable or in-demand items. Run some reports to examine what services and products you are selling and who is buying. What are your low performers and do you still need to carry them? Also look at those low or mid-level performers and see if there are ways you can encourage growth. Another excellent source of untapped data is from your staff members.  The front lines hold a wealth of info. Ask your team their thoughts of what is moving, what isn’t, why, and how you can improve. If you are a home healthcare provider, it is time to dive into increasing retail products.  This can be an excellent add on with instant cash flow in light of reimbursement concerns.

Vendor Review
Make a resolution to review your vendors. Look for ways to consolidate purchases. Many times we don’t know all the products a vendor carries. You can conserve cost by buying more items at a time and reduce freight expenses.  Review your contract agreements. It is amazing how much savings most members aren’t taking advantage of. Look at your top spend items and your supply item disposables. These costs can add up fast so complete a value analysis review and see what savings you are missing out on.  Most vendors will offer assist with your review and ramp up your savings in no time.

Positioning and Promotions
For many in the medical field, there isn’t the typical discounting and promotions that we see in the consumer marketing, but there are still many ways you can promote your business. A couple of key concerns most patients voice is are they receiving the best care at a reasonable cost? Positioning your medical business as the industry experts, the leading providers, offering innovative services and products will encourage this brand message. Also educating patients on how you are cutting unnecessary costs and giving more value for every hard earn dollar going your way will go a long way. Create cost effective marketing flyers and brochures to hand out at events or in office. Additionally, get more involved in your community. Participate in cause-related marketing efforts such as health walks or community health fairs. Not only will get to engage with your potential patients but you are helping educate on health-inspired messages while supporting your neighborhood.

These are some high level ideas but the lesson is to make time to think about business resolutions. With focused goals and targeted tactics you can make this year a smashing success!  Have other resolution tips? Please share your comment below.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Be the Buyer Hero

Healthcare reform keeps swirling around us all. Pressure is being put on all parts of the healthcare supply chain to reduce costs and increase efficiency. According to ModernHealthcare’s 2012 Survey of Executive Opinions on Supply Chain Issues found that 91% say reducing medical and surgical supply costs is very important with 80% of the providers saying it is part of their organization’s strategic plan.  If you are a buyer in the medical supply chain, this initiative has likely landed on your desk. There is no one sweeping magic answer to the challenge ahead, but there are steps you can take now to make headway and look like the buyer hero!

Take a look at who you are working with and buying from.  Are you actively buying off your GPO contract or other buying partnerships? If you aren’t involved in these, now is the time to step on board. GPO’s, IDN, ACO’s are all working hard to negotiate lower and best pricing deals which equates to savings. Buying through your wholesaler or distributor has many advantages and can lead to efficiency and savings. Other times speaking directly with your vendors on creative ways to reduce costs such as buying a larger quantity or different timing of your shipments can drive additional discounts.

Capital verses Commodity
When looking at reducing expenses, most buyers start with the big ticket items. This is  natural since they are larger line items on the budget, however significant savings can be found when looking at commodity items. Disposables and supply items used daily add up fast. Put these items on radar for value analysis. Review them with your buying group affiliations for deals you may be missing. This can show up as immediate savings making you look good!

Collective Think Tank
No one has all the answers and being so close to the numbers can blind us. Put together a collective think tank of people from various areas of the business especially those working with the items you are purchasing. Ask them what they recommend or could do differently.  You might discover the size of an item is actually too big and staff is cutting or folding the item - wasting time and money. Going down a size will meet our need and save expense. Another item you might be ordering every 10 days but if you bumped your order for 15 day usage you reap the benefit of the price break. You will be surprised at the saving ideas the front line can share.

Rules and regulations are created to make your business run smoothly, but building in flexibility can help you capitalize on opportunities. Appropriately take advantage of special offers or close out deals. Many suppliers are running promotions to move inventory off their books this year. You don’t want to be swimming in mountains of inventory, but take time to see what will work for your business to reap the savings benefits. Starting the new year off with a reduction in a line item can make you shine. 

Change is constant. Looking at the supply chain buying differently, developing new approaches, and working with your supply partners you will be up for the challenge and become a buying hero. Have other tips that have worked for your teams? Please share below in our comment area. Happy Buying!  

Monday, October 22, 2012

How Profit this Holiday Season

It's October and time to sure up your holiday promotional plan. Create a calendar of when and what promotions you are launching. Then back into the "who" behind each event or activity. Get your staff on the same page and divide up the tasks. This keeps stress levels in check and allows you to get more done. Here are some holiday ideas to make the most of seasonal sales!

Wish List
A fun, interactive way to make sure your customers receive the gifts they want is have them fill out a Wish List. This can range from items such as lift chairs, a new brace, a designer cane and more. Ask them to include the email of the significant other or gift buyer of choice. Create an email campaign to send to these potential shoppers saying ...Psst you know a secret that is on their loved ones wish list. Offer them a printable list with a discount offer. This way they gift giver knows they are buying just the right gift and you are ringing up the sale!

VIP Sales Events
Offer special VIP events closed to the public. Mail or email invites to your VIP clients,Wish-List email recipients, or specific segments of your client list like Power Chair users or Lift Recliner Users. Offer refreshments, appetizers, event-only offers, and possible gift wrapping service. All these goodies will drive attendance and increase your overall sales.

Your customers need to envision your business as a gifting location. Tastefully create selling retail displays with holiday bags, tissue, group product sets, and ready-to-go gifts in various price points. Make it inviting and use signage such as "Gift Center" or "Santa's Little Helper Station". Encourage engagement with try-me sample areas and keep it fresh by changing your displays through the season.

Gift Cards
Did you know that gift cards and certificates are the #1 retailing item? Stock up and don't miss the boat on this huge profit driver. Create a gift card display at your check out areas. Place signage through out your location. Don't forget coordinating packaging. Offer your gift cards elegantly boxed tied with a bow or in cute gift card bags. This increases the perceived value and makes it a easy gift for the gift giver. You can also offer downloadable gift cards on your website to drive instant gifts for those last minute shoppers.

Gift with Purchase
Take a tip from department stores. Offer a free gift with purchase such as a tote or travel bag. You can offer an additional discount for volume purchases or use successful promos such as "Buy one as a gift get a free product for yourself".  Free samples or discounts off future services also are popular ways to entice buyers.

Get Social
Shout your specials and events from your digital roof tops! Keep your social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter going with new content such as info about your offers and events. Hold contests for best holiday decorated wheelchair or host raffles for prizes. Creating buzz and excitement about your sales will make them more successful.

These are a few ideas to get you going. Please share what is working for your business. Ring up those holiday profits starting today!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gas up your Marketing Engine!

Healthcare reform, ACO’s, competitive bidding, reimbursement -  what is a business to do when everything is so up in the air? The best advice is to keep up the fight. Stay as educated as you can on the pending healthcare reform, but you need to keep your business going even in uncertain times.  Building your brand and staying in front of patients is more important that ever. Marketing is the fuel to fire your business so don’t pull off the gas!

Your Story
An easy marketing approach is to simply tell your brand story. How did your business start, why are you in business, what is that you provide to patients, what makes you different than your competition? All of these are starting points for a conversation with your patients and potential customers. Invite them to learn what you can do for them to make their lives better. Your story can be turned into printed ads, website information, radio or commercial advertising and more. Once you have a strong grasp of who and what you are, it is easy to communicate it to those that listen.

Your Community
Most of your patients come from the community around you. Stay connected by getting involved in local events, health fairs, charities, and awareness walks. You can sponsor a booth or offer donations. Talk up your participation up in your locations and get your current customers involved. Other opportunities include joining your local Chamber of Commerce or other local networking groups. With sites such as LinkedIn or MeetUp there are many ways to get connected and build local relationships. These can be free or low costs efforts to keep your marketing machine going while building your name.

Tap into these new relationships to co-op your advertising efforts. You can cross market with your local neighbors. If you are next door to a cafe or coffee shop why not have a sidewalk sale with free samples drawing traffic to both locations. Join forces with your nearby hospitals or care centers. If possible to set up a referral or lead system or partner with them on a local educational event to mutually benefit both of your businesses. Partners have the potential to share advertising expenses such as print or radio ads. Collaboration stretches all parties marketing dollars and shows camaraderie to your mutual customers.

We might not know all the answers when it comes to the future of healthcare industry, but we definitely want to stay in the game. Your competition might be pulling back, so now is the time to strike with strong marketing efforts. Have other marketing suggestions? Please share in the comments below. Keep fueling your selling engine with the power of strategic marketing!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Suggestive Selling Techniques

Many of our medical customers are adding retail selling space to their locations to increase their revenue streams with instant cash flow. Suggestive selling is a merchandising technique that can increase your retail product sales - sometimes without having to say a word!

Celebrity Endorsements
Whether we agree with it or not, celebrities offer selling power.  If you have a product that endorsed by a celebrity such as an famous actress or musician, then showcase it. Maybe you have a local community figure that loves your items too. Use signage or visual aids including their picture and a quote of how the product worked for them.  Prop these aids next to your retail product display. These images and words suggest educate that the product worked for these well-known people and they are putting their name behind it. This builds trust and credibility in the product and encourages more sales.

Write It Up
Take a tip from doctor's prescription pads and write down the products you used or recommended to your patients. This gives them a visual reminder of the products you discussed. You can show them the product to let them touch and feel it such as brace, a new cane, or a power chair. Not only does this provide the patient confidence to use the item, but also gets them closer and engage with the product. A slightly more hard sell approach is pre-packaging the items for them potentially offering a discount as they go towards check out.

Cross Sales and Up Sales
Stock your displays or retail product tables with related items. A new brace and a pain-reliever cream   or a mastectomy bra and a fashion head scarf. Offer a discount for the cross-sell product with the purchase of the other item. This allows clients to try products they haven't tried before but feeling their a getting a good value. You can also up-sell by offering value sizes of certain items, 2-for-1 deals, or half-off the second like item. This is a more promotional selling tactic but the goal is to increase your average ticket sale plus the patient might fall in love with the new product and drive a repeat purchase.

Group It
Your patients want to know they are getting a good value. Increase the perceived value by grouping products together. Creating retail product sets of pain relief kits, or cane accessories make your customers feel they are getting more bang for their buck.  Package the set in a ready-to-go bag. This allows easy carrying to the check out area and again the customer feels they are getting more value with a potentially reusable travel bag.

Selling retail doesn't have to be overwhelming or so stressful. Suggestive selling can take a more soft-sell approach that customers appreciate and respond to by buying! Happy Selling!

Monday, July 30, 2012

What's Your Bag?

If you are an independent medical facility, you want every advantage possible to grow your business. The right packaging can be another tool in your arsenal to provide a professional image, increase efficiency and assist with patient safety.

Personalization Power
Look the part by adding your logo to your packaging. Personalization builds your image as reputable a business.  Coordinating your business cards, letterhead, staff apparel, and bags provide a consistent marketing message across all items that come in contact with your patient. This builds confidence and trust that you are strong, established business who can meet their needs.

Depending your business you might be moving medical equipment, braces, orthopedics, or other items out the door. Package your retail items in the right bag and personalize it with your logo to create a walking billboard. Your bag travels with your patient continually advertising your business. In fact, many bags are reused by customers for lunch bag or as a tote bag to the grocery store. Your business is going places your marketing collateral never would.

Accreditation Packaging Supplies
Accreditation packaging supplies are created to not only  help you meet certification requirements but improve work flow and patient safety.  Equipment covers and tags to indicate clean, dirty, repairs, or returns. These items help streamline your operations by quickly alerting staff of the equipment needs. The assisting with your staff following accreditation requirements for not only their safety but also your patients.

The Right Bag for the Job
Packaging helps you do your job better. If you are delivery temperature sensitive TPN units or diabetic meds, foil pouches and chill packs allow you to safely supply your patients with their needs. Color coded or printed specimen bags alert staff instantly of specimen needs. Prescription bags allow you to staple important medication information and have the patient get their meds out the door.

Bags can be a forgotten supply item but they are a universal tool to improve your business. How are bags helping your business today?

Friday, June 29, 2012

Ask Questions to Close the Sale!

Adding value to your patients experience is the key to ringing up sales these days. Customers want to feel they are getting the most bang for their buck before parting with their hard earned cash. The product and service knowledge your staff have is a valuable asset your business that can provide is free of charge! Educating clients as a trusted adviser works in concert with providing the right service and products to meet patients' needs.

Sample Questions to Ask Clients
* What is your current biggest health or mobility challenges?

*What results are you trying to achieve?

* What products or treatments have you used in the past?

* What did you like and what didn't you like about those products?

These answers will clue you in on services and retail product recommendations to meet the patients desired goals in a non-pushy but value-adding atmosphere.

Tips for Maximizing These Conversations

* Train staff to get the customers talking by engaging in relationship building discussions.

* Listen and truly hear what the patient is (or isn't saying) can also help understand their expectations.

* Avoid stereotypes and preconceived notions of what the patient needs and be open to what they want.

Understanding the patient's needs, wishes, and pain points will drive better recommendations that meet the clients expectations. By giving customers what they want and solving there concerns, you will build trust with that patient and, in turn, sell more services and retail products!

Please share any additional questions that work well for your customer consultations. We all need to maximize every selling opportunity!

Friday, May 25, 2012

5 Tips for Retail Success

Many medical businesses have launched into the world retail. Simply putting up shelves, adding some product, and opening the doors won't drive the sales. Merchandising, display, promotions and a little retail know-how can set you up for success.

Eye Level is Buy Level 

Keep your products in easy access. Especially for the home health sector, many customers aren't mobile and if they can't reach a product they aren't likely to purchase it. Take tips from grocery stores and big box retailers by putting the items you wish to feature at customers' normal eye level. Other tactics are merchandising smallest to biggest putting lighter items at the top and heavier items at the bottom. This makes it easier to reach and less likely heavy items might fall.

Fully Stock
Keep shelves and racks full of products. There is a false belief that full shelves may look like items aren't selling, but actually studies have shown full shelves sell more. When displays are picked over it is less inviting to customers. Keep them full of product, neat and organized.

Talk it Up
Use signage and self-talkers to call attention to products. Signage can be informative to direct shoppers to the items of interest. Shelf-talkers can call out special offers, gift with purchase, or product benefits. Avoid hard to read fancy fonts or cluttering with too many signs.

Window Display
Create an eye-catching visual that draws customers in. Potential customers have a no-pressure area where they view your product offering in a beautiful display. Don't be afraid to use bold colors and some signage, especially if you have special promotion, but remember less is more. This isn't something to set it and forget it. Be creative and keep refreshing the display every month so that each time a customer visits it looks new and inviting.

Reception and Checkout Area
If you are offering services and retail, position your retail away from your reception area.  Ideally clients should walk through the retail areas to your reception. This offers the opportunity to browse. Don't keep products behind your desks areas. Customers love to touch, feel, and explore items. Remove all roadblocks to making a purchase.

With a bit of focus and attention to detail, your retail can be flying off the shelves! Have additional tips that worked for your business? Please share in the comment section below.

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Coupon Craze

There are new extreme coupon TV reality shows and an explosion of discount limited time coupon programs, such as Groupon. Consumers are jumping on the coupon band wagon. Take advantage of this growing tend by incorporating coupons into your marketing plans to grow your medical retail business.

Direct Mail
A standard printed paper coupon offer. These coupons are included in community area coupon pack mailings such as Val-Pak or Community Newsletters. You can also create your own mailed postcard campaign very inexpensively. Mail these coupon postcards to your patient database or buy names from local marketing agencies. There are many local or online vendors can walk you through this process. We also recommend using the US Postal Service offer where you can do everything from art creative and name selection online and they handle the mailing. These work very to target big offers or special event promotions.

Go Digital
You can put coupon graphics on your website, in emails, and on your social media channels. Alert customers to print their coupon and bring into the store to receive their special offer. This can help drive engagement for your digital marketing channels because customers want see the latest offer. It also can drive more foot traffic to your store since customers want to take advantage of the special discount.

Coupon Creative
Coupons need an offer such as percentage or dollar off discount. Gift with purchase coupons are also very successful. Grab attention with bold colors, prints, and images. Be sure you put your company name, address, website and phone number. Add an expiration date to create a sense of urgency to use the coupon quickly.

Track Success
Add unique tracking codes for each marketing vehicle you place a coupon. For example, use a code such as WEB12 for your website coupon and DM12 for your direct mail piece. Keep a record of all coupons redeemed and track these codes. You will know which marketing channel (website, email, mailer etc...)and which offers performed the best. Then you will know what offer and and what marketing channel to place future advertising.

Are you using coupons for your retail medical business? Please share your tips for success below!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Quantity verus Quality?

The old adage - "It is not how many people you know, but who you know" can ring true in these days of how many friends, followers, fans do you have?! Growing your social media connections can be an excellent goal for your business, but don't forget to develop a few close professional community relationships too. In these relationships - quality wins out over quantity.

Relationships To Build
High profile positions that touch many people in your community are ideal relationships to pursue. Real estate agents, bankers, healthcare workers, hospital administrators, community directors - basically people that work with a large portion of your neighbors who can be potential patients and customers.

Where to Network
Chamber of Commerce groups are an excellent place to meet other business professionals looking to network. Groups such as Lions, Knights of Columbus, or community volunteer and charity groups are additional options. Join and get involved. Attend meetings and participate in sub committees and events. This will allow you to interact with other members to get to know new people and start building relationships.

Promotion Ideas
These professional relationships can help you co-market each other. When your real estate friend closes with a new buyer in your area, have her give them a goodie bag that includes a special discount offer from your business. Host a community event at your location. This allows your patients to meet and greet with your professional friends who can offer special discounts such as setting up a new banking account with your banker connection or or free hearing test with your friend that has a hearing clinic. You can also promote each other in your newsletters or email offers. Brainstorm fun promotions with your new friends that spur interest and hopefully new customers for all of you.

Quality business relationships can do wonders for your business. Challenge yourself to go out and cultivate professional friendships. As your friendships blossom so will the creative ideas to market both of your businesses!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Customer Data is Golden

Did you know you have a gold mine inside your business? Your patient information is your business's gold. Instead of always chasing new customers, marketing to the customers you already have builds customer loyalty and provides a higher return on your market dollars. Here are some quick tips to mine for your own gold!

Collect Customer Info

Encourage new clients to fill out client info cards. Data collected should include mailing address, email, and phone/cell numbers. Ask questions regarding the type of products and services they interested in. This data will be instrumental in creating effective marketing campaigns. Make sure this data is captured in your internal client database such as your software system or your own spreadsheet.

Data Marketing
Putting the data into action is the fun part! Sorting your client lists by customer types such as male or female, serviced used, equipment rental clients, retail products purchased - the possibilities are endless. From there you can target postcard campaigns, email blasts, or special promotions relevant to what interests those customers. Bulk campaigns to your whole list can be used for general newsletters or overall promotions.

Loyalty Programs
Using your customer data in loyalty programs can also increase sales. Offering special VIP stats for long time clients with a discount or free products creates excitement and makes your customers feel valued. By capturing your customer's first service date, you can send anniversary cards with a thank you message and special discount. Feature long term clients in your newsletters or hold a VIP event with a gift bag with small goodies and discount offers. Celebrating and appreciating their business does wonders for loyalty.

Once you have loyal customers who love your brand and services, ask for referrals. Offer a special incentive for the client who refers as well as the potential new client. Have your current customer pass you the referrals contact data and send an postcard with an intro offer. Once that referral becomes an client, employ all the steps above.

Your clients are your best asset. Mine your data well and watch your profits grow!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Going Green can Save Money!

These day all businesses are trying to stretch every dollar, but did you know that going green can save you money? Many people associate higher price tags when think about about going green, but there are many small ways to be more earth friendly and reduce your costs!

Turn it off
Create a kill-the-vampire campaign in your location. Encourage employees to turn off lights, computers, and office equipment (anything that sucks energy) when they leave for the day. Install power timers that automatically cut the power to things like copiers and printers at a certain time of the day. Turn down the thermostat during non business hours.

Save the Gas
Many of your healthcare businesses offer home delivery or home services. These big vehicles use a lot of gas. Maximize your fuel by using eco-driving tips. Drive smoothly at a low RPM in the highest possible gear. Anticipate traffic to avoid continually breaking and revving. Keep tires properly inflated for maximum MPGs.

Eco Replacements
Eventually equipment fails and needs replacement. Invest in more energy efficient options such as energy star rated appliances or hybrid delivery vans. The initial investment might be more but these replacements will pay for themselves quicker with the energy savings you will gain.

Recyclable Packaging
Use recycled paper shopping bags and set up a bag recycling area in your store. Tout your green efforts with an in store green policy. Share in company newsletters and at local industry events.

Small savings add up quickly! What is your business doing to be more green? Please share your tips below!